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John Carter (of Mars.)
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lil_shepherd
I think this is pretty much spoiler free.

Finally got around to seeing this on DVD last night.

It's a long, long time since I read 'A Princess of Mars' - probably about 40 years - and very little remains in memory, though I wasn't very keen on Burroughs. (Not snobbery. In the same period I read my way through EE Smith, Lovecraft, Hamilton and Howard and have retained fonder memories of all of them.) So I'm not entirely sure about what remains of ERB and what was changed or added.

No doubt if this had been made thirty or so years ago it would have blown everyone away, but then it couldn't have been made then because this is a really CGI heavy movie. A lot of Barsoom is well realised, but the movie can't sell itself as a wonderfully imaginative alien world to people who have seen Avatar

Indeed, it suffers from some of the same faults as Avatar in that that at its heart is an actor who suffers from charisma-vacuum, in this case the inexplicably ubiquitous Taylor Kitsch, particularly when compared to his leading lady (and Lynn Collins is excellent as Dejah Thoris - more of her, please.) Also from the American white man arrives and saves all the natives plot - which, of course, is pretty much the complete ERB schtick. Unfortunately, those societies and the ecology of Barsoom are not half as imaginative or interesting as Avatar and as I consider them the only reason why anyone would bother to watch that film...

Where I'm not sure if the fault lies with ERB or the scriptwriters lies in the characterisation. Motivation is incomprehensible. Carter is at times a Southern gentleman and at others a typical 'barbarian' hero. What he never comes over as is a soldier. Though, as I said, it's a long time since I read the book on which this is based, I seem to recall that being a soldier was important to Carter's success. There are a lot of flashbacks, none of which seem to add any depth, because there's no one on Barsoom for him to take revenge on.

Following what is going on takes effort, but we are not engaged enough with any of the characters except Dejah and a couple of the Tharks to care. What is comprehensible is incredibly old-fashioned. If this is what happens when you make something very close to a book then may I suggest it provides the proof, if any more were needed, that a film is not the same as a book and you need to choose what you retain and what you change with great care to succeed.

Finally, a couple of things. The audience has seen the moon landing footage. If they are educated they know that Barsoom/Mars has heavier gravity than the moon. Armstrong et al were not able to leap tall buildings in a single bound. Therefore Carter should not be able to do so. (Likewise, why is it always assumed that lower gravity will mean less strong muscles on the part of the inhabitants. There is no biochemical restriction on muscle function in lessened gravity, and being able to leap tall buildings in a single bound would be an evolutionary advantage, no?) Then there were the depictions of Phobos and Deimos. I'm pretty sure they aren't going to look round, fellas, because they aren't, you know.

It's not as bad as its reputation may suggest, but it's the wrong film in the wrong time period, with a bad script and wholly miscast. Too much money spent for too little reward, and so badly marketed that, even if it had been terrific, it would not have been a success.

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I read the book Princess of Mars quite recently and I think it would have been hard to leave out the jumping and super-strength while remaining true to the basic concept of the book (however scientifically inaccurate). I don't think the book made much of his soldier background either - in fact, as far as I could tell, Carter is supposed to have succeeded largely because the Tharks were communists and therefore incapable of understanding love or compassion. It wasn't clear what excuse the rest of the Barsoomians had but there did seem to be quite a lot of "anything Carter does is right because he is the hero and therefore anyone who stands against him is wrong - oh and look! he's super strong and bouncy and can read minds and no one can read his!".

The plot didn't really follow that of the book all that closely (there are no Therns in the book, for instance) but I'm guessing that that part of the plot may have been drawn from later in the Barsoom series. I wasn't really sufficiently inspired by either film or book to want to read further.

Totally agree about Taylor Kitsch and Lynn Collins. I thought the film's biggest weakness was almost certainly Kitsch's lack of any charisma and, as the central action hero in an action movie, he needed to me more than 'meh, watchable'. Collins was great though.

I didn't realise when I wrote this post that Avatar is, quite specifically and according-to-godCameron, a reworking of 'A Princess of Mars'.

The problem is that by making the actual identification with Mars it makes it harder to suspend disbelief.

I'd never really thought of John Carter as a rip-off of Avatar. It's worth noting that I gave John Carter a higher rating than Avatar (though I was not keen on either of them) and I don't think that was entirely because of the size of the headache Avatar left me with. (After all I ended up seeing the headache-causing versions in both cases.)

Actually, it's Avatar that's a rip-off.

But then we all had this terrible trouble trying to identify all the things Avatar was a rip-off of.

I didn't like either movie. I do think that the planet in Avatar is gorgeous and beautifully realised, for all the occasional scientific problems with the biology. If I ever bought the DVD (I'm waiting for it to cost less than a fiver) it'd be to play it with the sound off as a sort of screen saver for the telly. Everything else about it -- with the exception of the always-decent Sigourney Weaver -- is, well, boring. It's also the only movie I have ever seen in 3D and the only one I am likely to see in 3D...

I do think that John Carter is marginally more interesting, plot wise.

I do think that the planet in Avatar is gorgeous and beautifully realised, for all the occasional scientific problems with the biology.

Are there any scientific problems with the floating rocks?

It's also the only movie I have ever seen in 3D and the only one I am likely to see in 3D...

I'm no fan of 3D at all, but I would say that "Caves Of Forgotten Dreams" actually benefited from 3D for a change.

Normally the problem with 3D is that the camera moves around so much and the focal point for the 3D prevents you from exploring the visuals properly. Also there's the blurring. And yeah, there's also the headaches.

Caves Of Forgotten Dreams is a documentary about the oldest cave paintings discovered. One important interesting aspect of these cave paintings is that the images have often made use of the curves of the cave walls when they were drawn. The camera spends long periods of time taking in this amazing spectacle, slowly panning across the cave walls. Since it's a fixed image there's no blurring and focussing on the subject being filmed is a lot easier. If you watch the DVD, the images don't make the same kind of impact as they do in 3D (though admittedly it still looks pretty awesome).

But yeah, 3D is generally just a gimmick.

Loads of problems with the floating rocks! But everyone knows about those... Unobtanium indeed!

I own the DVD of Cave of Forgotten Dreams but this is another where the commentary annoys me exceedingly.


All the stuff about the River Iss and the Therns is taken from Gods of Mars. Totally irrelavent to Princess of Mars and only served to make the film more confusing to anyone not familiar with Barsoom.

I was also annoyed about them pushing the arena fight to the end of the film when it was in the first third of the book and the reason Tars Tarkus was the leader of the Tharks instead of Tal Hajus. (they also didn't bother with the relationship with Sola that was behind Tars hatred of Tal but that would have just slowed the plot so fair enough.)

My third gripe is they were all wearing too many clothes but we'll never get that done straight.

When I read your review, I realized that I remember almost nothing about the movie except that it was a generic space opera that wasn't particularly close to the book. The fact that the movie vanished so completely from my memory says something about it.

I didn't see the movie, but I did buy the soundtrack because I looked at the tracklist on Amazon and fell over laughing. Anybody who names tracks things like "A Thern for the Worse", "Thark Side of Barsoom", and "Carter They Come, Carter They Fall" deserves all the royalties they can get.

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